Saturday, May 02, 2009


I read a very insightful & meaningful discussion on one of my email groups that I have signed into. This thread was about which careers purely require broadness of expertise & knowledge. The discussion was pertaining to high IQ individuals who often wonder if they are making full use of their gift or which ways exist to fully utilize it.

It began with a simple question, which career options are available that allows broadness or a macro understanding of diverse skills to function in it? The answer wasnt as easy or as difficult as it seemed. The discussion is still active, yet the replies so far, are very insightful.

The source of the question was an FT article on how people with high IQ's end up doing too many things & don't gain expertise in one domain thereby not maximizing their gain from their professional selves. How the high IQ allows them vivid comprehension which inevitably makes them fall into various interests & then dilute their focus. So which career would require the use of this specific skill set?

From the article -
Abnormally high IQ scores, by their nature, often speak of a brain too general to be of much use. "Effectively," said Rust, "you are mastering far too many things."

From the answers so far, I found a few very interesting ones & obvious ones;

  • Entrepreneur: Nothing offers wide-ranging challenges quite like having all the operations of an entire business rely solely on you. You get to be a CEO, a business developer, an accountant, a marketer, an account manager, an HR person, a project manager, a creative, a tech, and that's all *aside from* the actual product/service your business is selling. You wanna hustle like a jack-of-all-trades on fire? Start a business.
  • Peace Corps/non-profit/NGO: Working in an underfunded, low-resource, struggling area is an incredible way to make use of a stupid number of talents and skills. If you can show up on the scene, quickly master any training they need to give you, and then apply your brain to innovating the things that aren't working so well, fixing the things that no one else can fix, teaching what no one else can teach... You'll wear as many hats as you can fit on your head. There's no shortage of people with the *potential* to change the world, there's just a shortage of people actually doing it. And you've probably got more potential than many.
  • CIA operative
  • Parent: Parenthood challenges you in teaching, planning, psychology, health, patience, emotional resilience, creativity, your own flaws, and wide knowledge of the world -- both because they'll ask every question, and because you'll be obsessed with watchfulness about the world they're entering.
  • Politics: Know a little bit about everything & work on good ideas
  • Law: Gain expertise one a particular case / topic & move to next case / topic & keep moving.

From these answers & a few others, it became apparent to me that every profession no matter how mundane or exciting, requires a multidisciplinary approach towards thinking. The concept of visualizing everything in mental models & then crossing over into other fields of knowledge & vocation along with expertise gained from previous experience. I believe that this is what each successful approach in any career demands. Some people are high on professional experience, the specialist in their domains, but might be handicapped when it comes to applying some other concept out of their field of specialization to their field of specialization. Doesnt this severely limit the effectiveness of a professional.

My personal motto has been to constantly keep myself updated on whatever I am interested in. Sometimes this knowledge or even information leads to dramatic revelations. My understanding of systems approach to learning, which was reinforced when I applied it beyond its original intended domain of operations management, to learning & understanding everything has helped me learn more effectively. Encapsulating knowledge & expertise to use it in isolation, i think, is a definite way to implode our potential to excel.

I am not a great fan of the idea of IQ & its measurement, but I do advocate the fact that people, all of them have an inherent sense of interest & curiosity for things around us. So some of us learn to channelize it properly & others don't. It does matter what profession we pick for ourselves & how we function within it, but it also matters how we relate our work with what the world is doing so as to get this broader insight into our role & make it even more interesting. Maximizing value of any field of knowledge & vocation, I believe, comes not from rudimentary, linear growth but from unconventional & non-linear things that we allow into our lives.

No comments: